Ashland police have a new electronic ticketing system that will likely result in officers issuing more traffic citations, the police chief said.

Ashland police received a new electronic ticketing system this week that will likely result in officers issuing more traffic citations, the police chief said.

Officers will be able to write a ticket in about a minute using a handheld computer that sends the citation to a printer in the officer's patrol car, said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness. Writing tickets by hand took officers about five minutes, he said.

"I suspect it will result in more tickets being written because that's what officers are supposed to do in their free time — be out looking for traffic violations," he said.

The department purchased seven computers, enough for all on-duty patrol officers, and nine printers, enough for all patrol vehicles, Holderness said.

Officers began using the new system to ticket drivers on Wednesday. The department trained seven officers to use the computers that day — so there were six more officers looking for traffic violations than on a typical day, Holderness said.

Officers issued 52 traffic tickets Wednesday, mostly for speeding, he said. On average, the department writes nine traffic tickets per day, Holderness said.

The extra traffic enforcement angered some drivers.

Ashland resident Andrea Ostmo received a ticket for speeding on a downhill portion of Hersey Street, just before the street meets North Mountain Avenue. She feels it was unfair of officers to pick an area where it's easy to speed to train officers to use the new ticketing computers.

"It's unfair and it's infuriating," she said. "They deliberately set up a speed trap in that one area, where people come down the hill."

Holderness said officers were ticketing at that location because there is a problem with speeding there.

"I don't know how that's unfair," he said. "Either you're speeding or you're not. If you don't want to get a ticket for speeding, you probably shouldn't speed.

"We write tickets because it saves lives and reduces injuries and property damage."

The ticketing system, made by Texas-based Brazos Computer Services, cost $37,000 and was paid for using federal asset forfeiture money, Holderness said. Last year, the City Council approved $90,000 for an electronic ticketing system, but the department was able to find one for considerably less money, he said.

Medford Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff's Department use a similar system, but only for traffic officers, Holderness said.

"I think that we'll be the first department in the area that's issuing an electronic system to our officers more generally," he said.

When issuing a ticket, officers use their computers to scan or swipe a driver's license, which automatically fills out the ticket with the relevant information. Using a stylus, the officers follow the computer's prompts to fill out the rest of the ticket. Then they send it to printers installed in their patrol cars and give the paper ticket to the driver.

The printed tickets look almost identical to the handwritten ones, Holderness said.

"It's better for everybody because nobody gets any errors due to handwriting, and it takes less time for the officer to write the ticket, so the person (receiving the ticket) is stopped for less time," Holderness said.

The computers also have cameras, which can be used to take photos of evidence and crime scenes.

The new system will also allow the department to keep better records and will reduce the time Ashland Municipal Court spends inputting data, Holderness said. Once a ticket is issued on the new computers, the information automatically flows to the police and court databases.

Holderness said the new system will allow the department, which has lost four officer positions in the last five years due to budget cuts, to better use its limited resources.

Officer Steve MacLennan, the department's traffic enforcement officer, who writes the majority of traffic tickets, said the new system is already saving him time.

"It's going to make things a lot easier for everybody," he said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.